Contributor, Benzinga
February 8, 2024
verified by Jay and Julie Hawk

Looking for a forex broker? Try out FOREX.com for all your trading needs!

how to trade forex

Forex trading, also known as foreign exchange trading, involves the buying and selling of currencies on the global decentralized over-the-counter foreign exchange market. With daily turnovers averaging around $6 trillion, the forex market is by far the largest and most liquid financial market in the world. 

For those interested in entering this dynamic market, here's a comprehensive guide on how to trade forex. This article covers essential topics ranging from understanding the basics, setting up a trading account, developing a strategy, managing risks and selecting the right broker. By the end of this piece, you will have gained sufficient knowledge to open a demo account with an online broker so you can start to practice currency trading more confidently.

Disclosure: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

How Trading Forex Works

At its core, a forex transaction involves purchasing one currency using another currency at a specific rate of exchange or exchange rate, which serves as the price in forex trades. In practice, making a forex trade involves buying or selling a currency pair (EUR/USD) where the first currency in the pair is called the base currency, while the second is known as the counter or quote currency. 

Currencies trade in pairs against each other in the global and largely unregulated forex marketplace that operates 24 hours a day from the Sydney open at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon to the New York close at 5 p.m. ET on Friday. This massive market lets forex traders buy and sell currency pairs freely at any time during its standard opening hours. 

Currency values constantly fluctuate relative to each other because of various economic and geopolitical factors, creating opportunities for traders to profit from them. Forex traders actively engage in financial market speculation, aiming to make a profit by taking a position in a currency pair that correctly predicts whether the base currency will appreciate or depreciate against the counter currency.

Steps to for How to Trade Forex

To start participating in the online retail forex market, you can follow these essential steps.

Research and Select a Broker

Before diving into online forex trading, you first have to select a reliable broker that suits your needs. Key aspects to consider when choosing a broker include:

  • Margin and leverage: Understand the amount of collateral required to place trades and find out the maximum leverage ratio offered by the broker. While using a higher leverage ratio might seem attractive, remember that it increases your potential losses as well as gains.
  • Regulatory authority: Ensure that the broker complies with regulatory bodies within its local jurisdictions, which enhances its credibility and security.
  • Fees and charges: Research the broker’s transaction costs, dealing spreads, commissions and other charges associated with trading activities and with depositing and withdrawing funds.
  • Customer support: Verify the accessibility and efficiency of a broker’s client assistance and check that an acceptable channel is available, such as email, phone, live chat or social media messaging.
  • securely through Forex.com's website
    securely through Forex.com's website
    Best For:
    Forex Trading in and Outside the U.S.
    Rating:
    Read Review

    CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Set Up a Forex Trading Account

Once you've chosen a reputable online forex broker to partner with, you need to register for a trading account by providing personal details and verifying your identity. Regulatory authorities often mandate stringent Know Your Customer protocols that require every trader to authenticate their persona.

The broker you have selected will probably offer several different account types that cater to varying levels of expertise and trading capital investment sizes. Make sure to read the details of each account type and choose wisely according to your experience, trading and capital allocation preferences. Some of the more common account types include the following. 

  • Microforex accounts: These accounts typically have low initial deposit requirements, narrower lot sizes and restricted leverage ratios, making them ideal for beginners looking to gain experience with minimal risk.
  • Standard forex accounts: This account type generally features average deposit minimums, standard lot sizes and moderate leverage levels, catering to intermediate and advanced traders who seek a more balanced trading environment.
  • VIP forex accounts:  Such accounts usually come with premium services, higher deposit limits, broader trading capacities and personalized support. They generally target high-volume and well-capitalized traders requiring advanced features and dedicated attention.
  • Islamic forex accounts: Since they abide by Sharia law, Islamic accounts eliminate riba (interest) on swaps and rolling positions. Such accounts thus present an ethical option for Muslim traders seeking compliance with their faith while engaging in online forex trading.

Fund Your Forex Account

Most online brokers will allow beginners to practice trading forex with virtual money through demonstration or demo accounts before investing actual funds. You will want to take advantage of this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the broker’s trading platform and its various functions without risking your hard-earned capital.

After registering your live account and testing the broker’s platform via a demo account, the next step is to fund your trading account with an appropriate amount of capital. To do this, you transfer funds using one or more of the secure payment methods approved by the broker, so make sure the broker you select offers a funding method you want to use.

Understand Fundamental Concepts in Forex Trading

Before you start trading forex, it makes sense to master some of the key terminology commonly used in forex trading. Here’s a subset of the essential forex terms you will need to know:

  • Pip: Represents the smallest unit of change in a currency pair's value. A pip is equivalent to 0.0001 for the major and minor currency pairs, other than USD/JPY where a pip equals 0.01.
  • Lot: A standard minimum quantity of base currency units per trade. A standard lot is usually 100,000 base currency units, while a mini lot is 10,000 units and a micro lot is 1,000 units. Different lot sizes exist to accommodate individual trader preferences and account funding amounts.
  • Leverage: Borrowed capital extended by brokers to amplify trading positions. Leverage is typically expressed as a ratio (e.g., 500:1), which indicates the total value you can control relative to your initial outlay held on deposit by an online broker as margin or collateral for a trading position.
  • Bid: The exchange rate that buyers are willing to pay for a specific currency pair.
  • Ask or offer: The exchange rate at which sellers are prepared to dispose of a particular currency pair.
  • Market order: A trade direction given to a broker to instantaneously execute a forex trade in a specified amount at prevailing exchange rates.
  • Limit orders: A trade direction given to a broker to execute a forex trade in a specified amount at a specific exchange rate that is generally better than the prevailing exchange rate. Execution of a limit order generally only occurs when the market trades at or beyond the specified exchange rate for sufficiently long enough to allow execution of the full size of the order.
  • Stop-loss orders: A stop-loss order instructs the broker to automatically close a trade at the market price once the currency pair trades at a predefined exchange rate level that is generally worse than prevailing rates. This type of order is intended to limit potential losses by preventing continued exposure to adverse market moves.
  • Take-profit orders: These orders direct the broker to automatically close out a trade in a currency pair once the pair attains a pre-specified market level that is generally better than the prevailing market. This sort of order lets you lock in gains and ends further exposure to market moves.

Developing a Trading Strategy

Before you start trading with real money, make sure to come up with a robust trading plan with clear entry, exit, risk and money management rules tailored to your individual goals, risk tolerance and preferred timeframes. 

It generally helps to incorporate both technical analysis (chart patterns, indicators, trend lines, etc.) and fundamental analysis (economic data releases, geopolitical events, etc.) into your trading plan to maximize your decision-making accuracy when trading forex. Remember to adapt your trading strategy approach depending on evolving market conditions and market volatility fluctuations.

When constructing a forex trading strategy, it's typically helpful to consider relevant timeframes and prevailing market conditions to optimize your overall profitability. Keep in mind that certain trading strategies tend to suit different trader personality types, timeframes and situational contexts better than others. Some of the more popular forex trading strategy types are discussed further below.

  • Scalping: Involves ultra-short duration trades aimed at extracting trivial increments repeatedly throughout the trading session. Scalpers strive to capitalize on tiny bid-offer spread discrepancies by rapidly opening and closing positions, frequently employing aggressive leverage and martingale progressions. Automated algorithms and high-frequency trading bots tend to dominate this niche owing to the lightning-speed reaction times demanded by active forex markets.
  • Day trading: Centers on executing multiple intraday trades within tightly defined time intervals, normally confined to single trading sessions. Day traders rely heavily on real-time charts, monitoring minute-level tickers and news feeds to pinpoint fleeting momentum shifts and capture quick profits. Popular tactics embrace breakout strategies, pullback plays and mean reversion techniques.
  • News trading: Centers around reacting swiftly to sudden news announcements, reports or unexpected events, often involving a rapid interpretation of breaking headlines and geopolitical developments to generate profits by accurately predicting resulting exchange rate impacts and trading short-term volatility spikes.
  • Swing trading: Focuses on exploiting medium-term market fluctuations occurring over several days or weeks. Swing traders tend to use a blend of technical and fundamental analyses to detect emerging trends and reversals, as well as indicators like moving averages, candlestick patterns, momentum oscillators and market sentiment surveys.
  • Trend or position trading: Emphasizes prolonged holding durations spanning months or even years, concentrating on long-term macro themes influenced by underlying economic fundamentals. Investors use cyclical analysis, Elliot wave theory and broad structural trends to ascertain major inflection points guiding significant directional moves.

Each strategy type offers unique benefits and drawbacks determined by trader preferences, psychology, risk appetite and prevailing market conditions. Astute traders often dynamically alternate between these methods to respond to shifting market dynamics. They also continuously review and refine their trading tactics to maintain an edge in the ever-changing forex market.

Practice and Implement Your Strategy

Once you have developed a trading strategy that suits you well, remember to take the time to hone your skills and test your strategy in real time by trading in a demo account before operating in a live trading environment. When you have gained confidence in your strategy and ability to implement it, you can start trading live and gradually increase exposure size as your confidence builds and proficiency improves. 

Before placing substantial financial bets, remember to determine the appropriate position size for each trade considering your account funding, overall portfolio composition and desired risk parameters.

Monitor and Manage Your Positions

Once you open a forex trading position, you need to continuously track all active trades to know where you stand and adjust your positions accordingly should unfavorable developments arise. 

Many traders prefer to set stop-loss and take-profit targets or orders to safeguard their trading accounts and minimize the impact of adverse market movements. Make sure to regularly review your performance metrics and refine your trading tactics based on your strategy’s historical results, risk appetite and common sense. 

What You'll Need to Open a Forex Trading Account

The documentation required to open a forex trading account can differ depending on where you live, your chosen broker’s legal jurisdiction and whether you want to open a personal or corporate account. 

Most online forex brokers require the following personal documentation before you can open and fund a live trading account as an individual: 

  • Proof of identity, such as a national ID, driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of address like a utility bill or a bank statement
  • Bank account details for deposits and withdrawals
  • Your tax identification number (TIN)

If you want to open a corporate account, check with your broker for their requirements.

Strategies for Risk and Money Management

Effective risk management generally underpins successful forex trading ventures. You need to learn to apply proven risk and money management techniques such as:

  • Position sizing: Allocate a sensible portion of your trading account margin funds to individual positions based on anticipated volatility levels and your expected returns.
  • Diversification: Spread your positions across unrelated assets or instrument classes to mitigate concentration risk.
  • Emotion control: Avoid making impulsive trading decisions driven by greed or fear. Stick to your established detailed trading plan in a disciplined manner and refrain from deviating due to temporary emotional states.

Options for Trading Forex

If you want to trade currencies, you can choose among several alternatives for participating in the forex market:

  • Retail forex brokers: If you are a smaller individual trader, you can partner with dedicated online trade execution providers specializing in retail forex transactions. You can choose between different online broker models such as dealing desk, STP, ECN and DMA models based on your transparency and commission structure preferences.
  • Direct bank transactions: Companies and traders may be able to set up a credit line with a bank or financial institution offering forex execution services. However, expect wider dealing spreads than those available via online trading platforms.
  • Futures contracts: A futures contract is a currency derivative listed on recognized exchanges via a futures trading account. These instruments typically involve sizeable standard contract sizes and set future expiration dates.

Types of Forex Markets

You can trade forex in various ways, so be sure to select the most suitable forex market type corresponding to your strategic objectives:

Spot Forex Market

The most commonly used forex market, the spot market is characterized by a very quick delivery period within 1-2 business days upon transaction confirmation. The exchange rate of a spot forex contract reflects current market conditions. 

Futures Forex Market

Offering leveraging, specified future maturity dates and uniform trading product and amount specifications, most futures markets will facilitate traders who wish to speculate in a limited number of standardized forex contracts. Futures markets also generally offer a centralized clearing mechanism, thereby reducing counterparty credit concerns.

Forward Forex Market

Designed for corporate entities seeking protection against foreign currency exposures and best suited for their hedging purposes, forward forex agreements are over-the-counter contracts made based on credit lines with financial institutions. Such forward contracts have customizable transaction sizes and flexible timelines outside the conventional spot market delivery date for a currency pair. 

What to Consider with Forex Trading Accounts

You can evaluate prospective online forex brokers based on the criteria outlined below.

  • Account minimums: Assess a broker’s affordability regarding the minimum balance requirements it imposes on clients for a given account type. Align your expectations with the budget you have allocated to forex trading to avoid excessive strain on your funding constraints.
  • Fees: Research applicable transaction fees, rollover charges, swap rates, inactivity fees, deposit fees and withdrawal charges levied by each broker you are considering. A thorough examination of such fees will clarify any hidden expenses that could potentially erode the long-term viability of your forex trading business.
  • Demo account: If you are new to forex trading, remember to opt only for online brokers that offer a complimentary demo trading account so that you can get some hands-on trading experience using their supported platform(s) without making a financial commitment. Novices will especially benefit from simulated trading to help hone their practical abilities before trading with real money in a live environment, while even experts will appreciate having a demo account to test new strategies.
  • Number and quality of markets supported: Most online traders focus on the highly liquid major and minor currency pairs that most brokers offer. Some brokers offer a much wider selection of up to 200 currency pairs, but those pairs will show different liquidity levels. If you want to trade assets other than forex, make sure to identify brokers that offer a suitable asset selection spanning the instruments and sectors you anticipate wishing to trade. Remember, having a broader variety of assets to choose from can boost your chances of discovering lucrative trading prospects.
  • Customer service: Test the responsiveness, competence and professionalism exhibited by a broker’s customer service representatives when addressing clients' queries. Reliable communication channels will help support your trading activities and instill trust in the broker. This is especially true for beginners; more experienced traders may not need as much support.
  • Research tools available: If you would like to benefit from research or proprietary trading tools, choose a broker that offers these services. For example, some forex brokers offer trading tools like technical analysis studies, news feeds, chart pattern recognition software and automated algorithm builders that can help boost your profitability. 
  • Educational resources: If you are new to forex trading, it would make sense to choose a broker that is committed to educating its clients and deepening their understanding of the more intricate factors that move the forex market. In addition to FAQs, videos, blogs, ebooks and articles, such helpful resources can also include expert market commentary and analysis that can show you how market professionals review the forex market and make informed decisions about its future direction. 

Compare Forex Brokers

Benzinga has taken some of the guesswork out of selecting a suitable online forex broker to trade through by compiling the comparison table below where Benzinga showcases some of the top-tier brokers in this competitive market. 

  • securely through Plus500's website
    securely through Plus500's website
    Best For:
    Mobile Users
    Rating:
    Read Review
  • securely through Forex.com's website
    securely through Forex.com's website
    Best For:
    Forex Trading in and Outside the U.S.
    Rating:
    Read Review

    CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

  • securely through AvaTrade's website
    securely through AvaTrade's website
    Best For:
    Non US Forex Trading
    Rating:
    Read Review
  • securely through FxGlory's website
    securely through FxGlory's website
    Best For:
    Fixed Spreads
    Rating:
    Read Review
  • securely through IG Markets's website
    securely through IG Markets's website
    Best For:
    Forex Execution
    Rating:
    Read Review

    Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 69% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

  • securely through eToro Forex's website
    securely through eToro Forex's website
    Best For:
    Demo Accounts
    Rating:
    Read Review

    CFD trading is not available to U.S. users. 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

  • securely through HYCM Capital Markets's website
    securely through HYCM Capital Markets's website
    Best For:
    Forex Trading
    Rating:
    Read Review

Learn to Trade Forex With a Mentor

  • securely through Asia Forex Mentor's website
    securely through Asia Forex Mentor's website
    Best For:
    Crypto + Forex Courses
    Rating:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Is trading forex profitable?

A

Yes, trading forex can be profitable given adequate preparation, sound discipline, rigorous backtesting and continuous improvement. Still, the inherent risks involved in trading currencies require using a cautious and well-planned approach that preserves trading capital while aiming for gradual growth.

Q

Is forex trading difficult?

A

The mechanics of trading forex are manageable. Like mastering any skillset, however, trading forex successfully requires dedication, planning, discipline, patience, resilience and persistence. Initial hurdles to getting involved in forex trading are minimal, but the level of profitability attained from forex trading is what typically separates amateurs from seasoned professionals.

Q

Is $100 enough to start forex?

A

Technically yes, although starting with such a low amount of trading capital will substantially limit the viable forex trading opportunities you can profit from. Ideally, you will want to develop a profitable trading plan and then start operating in the forex market with a larger amount of capital while using recommended risk and money management techniques to avoid blowing out your account in the event of an adverse move.

Q

Is forex trading like gambling?

A

While forex trading has more in common with gambling than investing, it generally relies on calculated forecasts based on empirical data in contrast with the randomness of outcomes that characterize most games of chance. When you operate in a disciplined manner within a tested trading plan and are suitably armed with verified facts and sensible market analysis, you should achieve better results trading forex than most casino gamblers.

Get a Forex Pro on Your Side

FOREX.com, registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), lets you trade a wide range of forex markets with low pricing and fast, quality execution on every trade. 

You can also tap into:

  • EUR/USD as low as 0.2 with fixed $5 commissions per 100,000
  • Powerful, purpose-built currency trading platforms
  • Monthly cash rebates of up to $9 per million dollars traded with FOREX.com’s Active Trader Program

Learn more about FOREX.com’s low pricing and how you can get started trading with FOREX.com.